The Utah I Never Knew

Until a few months ago I never knew any of Utah beyond the Salt Lake City airport. Last fall, during the “baby steps” of my journey, I squeaked through the very northeast corner of the state. After leaving Colorado on my way to the northwest I camped for the night at Red Fleet Reservoir before heading north through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It was interesting to see the landscape of Colorado evolve into the red hills of Utah, and from there into the rolling hills and ranch land of southern Wyoming. Several months laster I entered Utah from Colorado once again, this time in the winter, and in my tow vehicle. I’d been in Colorado for a month gathering images for my next book, The Mountain Dogs of Colorado, and left my RV behind in Sedona while I maneuvered the mountain passes in my trusty AWD Honda. This time my route took me from Steamboat Springs, through Grand Junction to Moab. I was completely entranced by the beauty I found between Moab and Sedonathe following day. For a third time I entered Utah from Colorado, this time with the Salt Lake City area on my radar. An old high school friend, Mark Athay, had offered a comfortable place for me and the girls to hang out while my RV was in for some service work. While Mark was at work I took advantage of his high speed wifi connection to get caught up on some of my own work, and sadly much of the day was spent spinning my wheels with tech support issues that I could not tackle from the road. I was thrilled to have an excuse to step away from technology when Mark took the following day off to go hiking at one of his favorite spots, Ruth Lake. We set out early for the Ruth Lake trailhead in the Wasatch National Forest in order to beat the heat. The moment we parked the car a lone moose trotted across the road an into the woods on the other side.

Female moose

Surprisingly it was the only one we saw all day. Possibly just as well though, because I let Jazzy and Sadie hike off-leash. They love to hike unencumbered so they can sniff around and blaze the trail ahead of me. We seldom have the opportunity to hike this way so it’s a real treat when we can. Ruth Lake was the first of many on this trail.

Ruth Lake

There were a few so small they didn’t even have names. In my mind there’s now a Jazzy Lake, a Sadie Lake and a Mark Lake along that hike (unfortunately we ran out of unnamed lakes before we got to my name :-))

With Mark, Jazzy and Sadie at Trout Lake

Jewel Lake

Jazzy chillin’… literally!

Back side of Jewel Lake


Jazzy is typically camera shy. When I call her name she’ll stop and look at me for a moment, but if she sees the camera aimed at her she will turn away and avoid looking at me, no matter what I do to entice her. It was a rare treat to have her stand still and “smile” for me a few times!

Jazzy posing?

Return to Ruth Lake

After the hike we drove back down Hwy 150, stopping a few times along the Provo River at some spectacular places I’d spotted on our way out in the morning.

Provo River

Provo Falls

Since I was leaving the following day, and knowing my love of nature and wildlife, Mark decided to show me one more treasure in the Salt Lake City area that evening. Antelope Island sits in the southeast corner of The Great Salt Lake and is home to numerous free ranging Bison, Big Horn Sheep, Pronghorn Antelope and Mule Deer. There are also an abundance of hawks and owls. The owl population was so dense that we had to break several times to avoid hitting them as they soared across the road at dusk. We arrived on the island not too long before sunset, and were limited to view the wildlife from the road, but Mark stopped several times so I could hop and out grab some images. I found the island intriguing, in a dry and arid sort of way. I kept having to remind myself that I was in the middle of Utah, and not on some coastal island somewhere.

View of Salt Lake from Antelope Island

Sunset at White Rock Bay,  Antelope Island

Lone Bison “hiding” in the grasses above White Rock Bay

Pronghorn Antelope

Bison herd

Sunset over The Great Salt Lake

The following morning I headed on up the highway to Bear Lake which is shared by Utah and Idaho. I’d reserved a spot at the Utah State Park on the south end of the lake. The campground was packed with families and filled with the sound of happy children. This, naturally, made me feel a bit melancholy for Elissa’s younger years and made me wish for some time with her.

View of Bear Lake looking north from Utah.

Once again I found myself frustrated with the fact that the dogs were not allowed on the beach. (Not even on leash!) I understand the need for this rule, as some dog owners do not take responsibility for cleaning up after their pets, and I’d say those few are a very low percentage. It would be nice if they could at least designate a pet friendly area and mark it as such so people know what they MAY be walking into. From what I’ve observed during my ten months of travel, is that most dog owners are grateful to find designated places where their pets can run, and most are very diligent about cleaning up after them, especially when bags and trash cans are provided. I would love to have taken Jazzy and Sadie with me when I put my kayak in the water at sunrise the following morning. From a smooth and quiet beach like this it would have been fun to see how one or both of them would do on the kayak. Instead, I left them snoozing in the RV, while I cruised with my camera, and photographed my first American White Pelican.

American White Pelican taking flight

And a few more shore birds… The following morning the girls and I crossed the border into Idaho. Stay tuned for the abundant beauty I found there! A very special thank you to my friend Mark, for his generous hospitality and for showing me some more of the diverse beauty of Utah. Bryce and Zion are still on my radar, so I know I’ll be back!

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